Anthony Nelson is a former composite three-star recruit who played three years at Iowa after redshirting his freshman year. Nelson racked up 119 tackles, including 59 solo and 31 for a loss, along with 23 sacks. He had a whopping 9.5 sacks last season as a junior. He also batted 7 balls and forced four fumbles.
The thing that sticks out the most about Nelson is his size. What an absolute unit:
His frame is just massive. 6’7, 270 pounds, 34 7/8 inch arms and a pterodactylish wingspan at 83 inches - just under seven feet. He could add even more weight to his frame if he wanted to. He uses his long arms to keep blockers at bay and off his chest, and has excellent hand usage with a ridiculous amount of pass rush moves. His long arms are also why his bench press is so low.
What’s even more insane is the athleticism that he has with a frame so large. The issue is that his testing athleticism doesn’t show up on tape in crucial pass-rushing areas, and that’s why he fell to the fourth round. Despite the 3cone and short shuttle times, Nelson is stiff through the hips and doesn’t have the required flexibility you want. His first step is pretty slow, which hurts him as the more athletic tackles he’ll see in the NFL will have a jump on him. He still uses his hands well to give himself a chance and can make tackles pay for mistakes. In college Nelson was still able to regularly bend the edge because of his smart play and his pass rush moves, but that might be an issue for him in the NFL. That means he’ll be more of a bull rusher who will have to go through the tackle, not around them. That’s going to limit his ceiling.
In terms of being an edge defender against the run, he can use his length to set the edge but if they get outside of him he doesn’t have the hips to turn and defend the corner. His lateral agility down the line of scrimmage isn’t great. Nelson is much better suited to playing in a phone booth, so to speak, instead of out in space. However, between the tackles, Nelson sheds blocks with ease and uses impressive low pad levels despite his height, and swallows up ball carriers. The Hawkeyes would move Nelson inside on some nickel packages and I think the Bucs may use him in a similar manner. He looks like a 5 technique defensive end/tackle and may compete with Vernon Gholston for a spot on the 53 man roster.
Nelson still unquestionably fits the pattern of the kind of player the Bucs have drafted this weekend. He’s tough, extremely physical, plays with a high motor, is smart and a high-character leader. Nelson is an intriguing player with some awesome traits and skills. He won’t be a double-digit sack guy, but he could be a good rotational depth piece that can play inside or outside and will be an excellent run defender.